That’s a legitimate question made all the more curious by the fact that the Finder in OS X 10.11 El Capitan arguably is the best Apple’s ever developed. Finder replacement apps? Why bother to replace the Finder? True, it’s been a much maligned, problematic centerpiece utility on Macs for a few decades, and suffered from a lack of love by Apple’s engineers, but today’s Finder is good, so why all the Finder replacements?
Part of the reason for the surge in Finder replacements is that the Finder tries to do too much. It’s a way to browse and find files of any kind in a folder hierarchy that is anything but comforting to most Mac users. It’s a good thing Apple keeps user files in the same folder structure version after version; User, Desktop, Downloads, Documents, Music, Pictures, Movies. The Finder is an app launcher, too, with a customizable Sidebar and Toolbar.
Most of the Finder replacement apps go beyond what the Finder does, entering into Mac geek territory with power user tools. Here’s a list of those I’ve tried and use.
Path Finder – Finder power personified. Path Finder does it all and more, but looks and feels exactly like the Finder with duplicate functionality, and then a bunch of useful features bolted on (it had tabs long before the Finder had tabs).
Commander One – Also familiar but with additional tools for Mac users who want more but not too much more. Commander One looks like Finder but has FTP built-in, along with root access, keyboard shortcuts, and a familiar toolbar.
My order of preference is Path Finder first (it’s been around years and has more features), then Commander One (it’s new, there’s a free version, and it’s familiar), and then others, each of which provide a distinctly different flavor for Finder functionality.
Still, the original questions are unanswered. After OS X’s Finder went for many years with little engineering effort from the company to improve or enhance the much used utility, then Apple improves it immensely and the competitor replacement apps come out like a swarm.
Here’s another. It’s called uBar and it started life as a way to make your Mac look and work more like Windows but has evolved to become a mashup of Finder replacement and Windows interface.
Without a scientific survey to prove me wrong, I suspect the reason there are more Finder replacement utilities has to do with the Mac’s growing popularity, and a few million switchers from Windows each year, than it does with any neglect from Apple. People like choice and for many years it was the Finder or the highway. Now there are choices– complex Finder replacements for experienced Mac users, and Windows-like interfaces for recent switchers.